Published: Sat, May 20, 2017
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Man who ran over pedestrians was 'hearing voices'

Man who ran over pedestrians was 'hearing voices'

On Thursday, a speeding auto smashed into pedestrians on a sidewalk in New York City's Times Square, claiming 1 life and injuring 22 others.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio stressed that there was no indication the incident was an act of terror.

The apartment building where Rojas lives was cordoned off by police Thursday. Rojas, who lives with his mother in New York City's Bronx borough, had been arrested twice for drunken driving, in 2008 and 2015, and once this month on a charge of menacing for threatening another man with a knife, police said.

Police did not immediately release the cause of the crash.

The suspect, who suffered from "psychological issues", told police he expected officers to shoot him, according to the source.

"I was in shock, I was screaming", witness Kristen Boyce told NBC New York. "We start running, we don't know if another one is going to come, we don't know what's happening, everyone is panicking". The suspect was being tested for possible drug or alcohol intoxication.

Fire and emergency crews surrounded the chaotic crash site at the busy intersection of 42nd Street and 7th Avenue, which is typically swamped by tourists and office workers.

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Rojas, who lived with his mother in the Bronx, drove his auto Thursday from his home through Times Square, then made a U-turn, steered his vehicle onto a sidewalk, and roared back up the sidewalk, plowing through helpless tourists for three blocks before he crashed his auto into protective barriers.

A man steered his auto onto a sidewalk running through the heart of Times Square and mowed down pedestrians for three blocks, killing a teenager, then emerged from his wrecked vehicle wild-eyed and waving his arms before he was subdued by police and bystanders. It stopped when it struck a metal stanchion.

Initial reports of the incident brought to mind vehicle attacks on pedestrians like those seen in recent months in Britain, France, Germany, Israel and Sweden.

Alyssa Elsman, an 18-year-old resident of Portage, Michigan, who was visiting the city, was killed.

The injured included Elsman's 13-year-old sister, Ava, according to Michelle Karpinski of Portage Public Schools.

Another witness told WABC a driver drove onto the sidewalk and drove over multiple people. Another 22 have been injured and taken to local hospitals. Beside her was a NY state license plate and a side mirror that broke off from the auto, a police officer at the scene said.

There was no immediate word from New York City police on the number of people who were hurt.

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was briefed at the scene.

The sidewalks around Times Square are secured with more than 200 steel bollards meant to prevent accidental or criminal vehicle intrusions, said Rob Reiter, chief security consultant for CalPipe Security Bollards.

President Donald Trump has been made aware of the situation and will continue to receive updates, according to White House press secretary Sean Spicer.

A vehicle rests on a security barrier in New York's Times Square after driving through a crowd of pedestrians, injuring at least a dozen people, Thursday, May 18, 2017.

Rojas was in the Navy, the military confirmed.

Officials are awaiting toxicology results, though Rojas "had glassy eyes, slurred speech, and was unsteady", during his arrest, the complaint said.

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